Story 06: The Big Move

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Sidebar-Engine Failure at MOT

Written by Duncan Smith

Mike and I worked very well on most issues. The TCM staff was larger, had better resources, and was able to accomplish more tasks related to a project with greater ease than the MOT team, but we felt that we had to keep pace. Still, there was good sharing and helping; we felt that we were moving forward together.

The second issue was creating project advancement. We all agreed that this was a singular success. The project was very well staffed by a good team from both boards... And the final cost per square foot for the project was very low, which is a testimony to this management.

The third issue was that both museums would have the funding mechanisms in place to be able to raise the funds for the project's common expenses, and also for their own institution. This is where MOT got caught—we were not able to keep up with TCM and were not able to keep enough money flowing in a timely way into the project. In retrospect, at the project meetings where the two boards sat down together, it might have been helpful if The Children's Museum board had been more demanding of the MOT board—in effect, "show us your money"—and motivating the MOT board to develop its capacity to be a viable partner. Both boards behaved so nicely to each other that some of these hard questions that might have been asked were not. That was too bad. Because the MOT board, if pushed hard enough, might have said, "Well, we aren't big enough yet to do this." Or they might have said, "We will do it" and they would have put the money on the table. And the fundraising game would have had a much different psychological foundation. Who knows?

In any event, we had some memorable moments in the history of the project. I assumed that once a bank had agreed to loan construction financing, which, I will add, at 20% would have been cheaper to charge to Mastercard or Visa, the addition of a $300,000 fee as a kind of goodwill gesture was a bit much. These hits were hard. We had another one when the MOT's exhibition lighting fund was purloined by our construction manager to meet other pressing needs. And then there was the question of the elevator foundation costs, which were astronomically higher than estimated. The elevator broke down two months before the opening and we had to do everything except carry antique cars up the stairs. We got the elevator back four weeks before the opening, just in time to finish the installation. But it cost a lot of money in overtime labor costs. Then there was the earthquake proofing that cost us our wood floors. Financing was a problem. MOT really had to bail the boat on a day-to-day basis.

Next: Sidebar - The Year-One Benchmark